Women Push Back

by Russell Mokhiber And Robert Weissman

Let the corporate criminals take over Wall Street.

And investors flee the market.

Hello criminals.

Goodbye market.

Pollute nature.

And nature confronts the polluters.

Push the people to the edge of their misery, and the people push back.

In Escravos, Nigeria, 600 women seized control of the ChevronTexaco oil terminal.

The unarmed women villagers threatened to remove their clothes — a traditional shaming gesture aimed at humiliating ChevronTexaco.

Despite its great oil wealth, the Niger Delta is among the poorest — and most polluted — places in West Africa.

"Chevron has neglected us," says Felicia Itsero, 67, one of the protesting women. "They have neglected us for a long time. For example, any time spills occur, they don’t do proper clean-up or pay compensation. Our roofs are destroyed by their chemical. No good drinking water in our rivers. Our fishes are killed on daily basis by their chemicals, even the fishes we catch in our rivers, they smell of crude oil." (see http://www.moles.org)

In West Virginia, the coal industry, which for generations has controlled West Virginia, is trying to jam through a special session of the state legislature a new law that would allow coal trucks to carry 120,000 pounds of coal — up from the previous limit of 80,000. There goes traffic safety. There go the roads.

Last week, the Charleston Gazette, the state’s leading newspaper, referring to the protests in Nigeria, wrote this:

"This drain the wealth pattern (in Nigeria), the essence of colonialism, smacks of the way out-of-state coal corporations treat West Virginians. We wonder if a naked protest (in West Virginia) would accomplish anything."

Last week, Julia Butterfly Hill, was arrested and deported from Ecuador. (see http://www.amazonwatch.org)

Hill was protesting an Occidental oil pipeline being built through a nature reserve. The pipeline faces massive opposition from indigenous communities that would be affected.

She was roughed up. She was taken in the morning to the airport escorted by 10 police officers and then forced to board a plane to Panama.

Hill gained worldwide recognition in the late 1990s after spending two years camped atop a redwood tree in northern California to save it from being cut down. In Ecuador, she met with the Mindo community, which staged a three-month tree sit to block construction of the pipeline.

And as we write, Diane Wilson, a fourth generation shrimper and mother of five, is outside of a Union Carbide chemical facility in her hometown, Sea Drift, Texas. (see http://www.bhopal.net)

Dow Chemical purchased Union Carbide in 1999.

The Dow facility is one her area’s biggest polluters.

Wilson is in the midst of a hunger strike to protest Union Carbide’s treatment of residents of Bhopal, India.

That’s the city in northern India that was gassed when a Union Carbide facility blew up in 1984, killing thousands.

Wilson visited Bhopal after the accident and has never forgotten.

She is outraged that Dow is pushing to water down the criminal charge against Warren Andersen, the former Union Carbide CEO, to criminal negligence, a non-extraditable offense.

She is outraged that the 150,000 victims received only $500 from Union Carbide, when in the United States, there have been million dollar settlements paid out by Dow to people injured here.

Following the demands of victims in India, Diane Wilson wants Andersen extradited to India.

Warren Andersen is a fugitive from the Indian courts.

She wants the company to face pending criminal charges for culpable homicide.

For 15 years now, Wilson has been fighting the chemical companies that destroyed the bay that provided for generations of her family.

The corporate counterattack against Wilson has been vicious.

Her dogs have been killed.

Members of her family have been shot at.

Her shrimp boat has been sunk twice.

But she continues to fight for justice.

She says she will continue the water-only hunger strike until the people of Bhopal get justice.

That means money, and a criminal trial of Union Carbide/Dow, and its executives.

Wilson’s hunger strike follows one begun in New Delhi on June 8, when two women gas survivors from Bhopal — Tara Bai, 35, and Rashida Bi, 46 — together with long-time Bhopal activist Satinath (Sathyu) Sarangi, 48, sat outside the Indian Parliament and pledged to fast until the Government ensured that justice would be done in Bhopal.

After 18 days without food, the two women hunger strikers collapsed during a mass rally and were taken to hospital.

Sathyu broke his fast with orange juice.

Wilson picked up the fast soon thereafter. She says she will continue until justice is done in Bhopal.

Women in Texas, Nigeria, Ecuador, and India are teaching us a basic truth.

You can talk or write a blue streak and who listens?

But put your body on the line and things begin to move.

Get up.

Get out.

Push back.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, and co-director of Essential Action. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1999.

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